Facebook EdgeRank: Which Post Type is Best?

Facebook EdgeRank

I’ve repeatedly received a question similar to this one:

What is better for Facebook EdgeRank? Text posts, photos or videos?

Regardless of the research available on this topic, it’s a question I hate to answer. Here’s why…

You Just Don’t Get it

The typical person asking me this question is worried about one thing: Reach.

When you understand EdgeRank, you stop worrying about being at its mercy.

What shows up in a user’s News Feed depends on Affinity, Weight and Time.

  • Affinity: The user or someone close to them shows a preference for your post or type of content.
  • Weight: Comments, likes and shares are good. Negative feedback is bad.
  • Time: The longer ago the post was shared, the less likely they’ll see it.

Affinity is going to depend on your specific audience. What do they like? What they like will not be identical to what another Page’s fans like.

And what someone “likes” is measured by Facebook based on actions. Do users click? Do they comment, like or share?

Some post types attract clicks more than others. For example, a photo naturally gets more clicks for Photo Views. And a good status update tends to get more comments.

But if you post fluff, you can also expect to get more negative feedback. And that, of course, isn’t going to help you get into News Feeds.

What does EdgeRank favor, you ask? Well, it depends on what your Fans favor.

In the end, the question is backwards. People are asking, “How can I get into more News Feeds?” when in reality it should be, “How can I post something that my Fans will like?”

The answer isn’t post type…

Focus Should Be on Quality, Not Post Type

A year ago, we all said that Facebook favored photos. So everyone shared photos.

Then the new flavor of the month was text updates. So everyone shared text updates.

The motivating factor in each case: Reach.

You should never let post type drive your content strategy. Your focus should always be on quality, no matter what the post type.

“I’m sharing text updates! Why am I not getting better Reach?!!”

Well, first your priorities are out of whack. You should be monitoring engagement and other actions that lead to your business goals.

Second, it’s quite possible that the content you are sharing sucks. Post type doesn’t fix crappy content.

There Isn’t a Universal Truth

This is the main reason I don’t answer these questions.

What shows up in News Feeds depends on what users like, how they engage with it and time decay. Let’s talk that through…

1. What Do Your Fans Like? What my Fans like is not the same as what your Fans like. My Fans may be from different countries than yours. They may be male instead of female. They may be 25-34 instead of 35-44.

2. What Do Your Fans Engage With? Are they visual? Do they prefer photos? Do they prefer clicking links? Do they like more than comment or are they prone to comment more than like? Not all users behave the same way.

3. What is the Best Time of Day? Time decay is all about finding the best time of day to post. I hope you realize by now that there is no universal best time to post. It depends on your audience and when they are online and willing to consume content.

The bottom line: Monitor your own results. Dig into your Facebook Insights. Do not listen to anyone who claims to have a universal truth.

Your Facebook Fans Aren’t Robots

So simple, but marketers need to be reminded of this.

Let’s please stop making general statements about what works. Your Fans are not robots. They are not trained dogs, waiting to roll over for your text update snack.

Share text updates! Share photos! Use caption contests! Use fill-in-the-blank!

Meh. Just share interesting content. Monitor your results to figure out what works.

Don’t Chase an Algorithm

If you’re chasing EdgeRank, your focus is in the wrong place.

Those who chased Google’s algorithm are now paying for it with Penguin and Panda. Those who just kept producing great content are rising to the top.

If you put yourself at the mercy of an algorithm, you lose the power. What is true today will not be true tomorrow.

EdgeRank could change. Your Fans’ interests and demographics also can change.

Keep producing quality content. Keep monitoring your results. Do that and you’ll rise to the top.

What Do You Think?

I know that many disagree with this. It seems that the majority of Facebook marketing posts these days are all about “solving” EdgeRank. So what do you think?

Let me know in the comments below!

  • reallifesarah

    I “sort of” agree with you, Jon. You are right that you have to define your goals before each post, and that reach is not always the most important goal. We shouldn’t be at the mercy of the algorithm. But if we completely ignore EdgeRank when posting, I think we are committing a fatal error. I actually wrote a post about why I alternate between photos and text posts, and yes – I put links in the photo descriptions and text posts. But I set out a way to evaluate a page’s fans to see what is most effective for that page. As that data changes, I’ll change my tactics. (I even mentioned you – heh) http://www.sarahpinnix.net/should-facebook-pages-post-links-in-text-updates-and-photo-descriptions/

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      My counter: If you monitor your results, you already know what works and what doesn’t.

      Ultimately, EdgeRank is mostly one thing: What a user wants to see. And your results should reflect that.

      Listening to cookie cutter solutions and ignoring your own results is the fatal flaw!

      • http://gplus.to/gplustips Ryan Crowe

        My counter to your counter: it is more efficient if you have an idea of what’s going to work before you post something – you have to post something to have data to monitor results. If there was a strong understanding of EdgeRank before a campaign/series of posts/etc. then you would have better results off the bat. Why test more? Why ‘waste’ that time? If I am familiar with EdgeRank and I can optimize my post to take advantage of the current iteration of EdgeRank… I can be more strategic and more informed EVEN IF I haven’t had time to gather data previously.

        I see it this way: let’s say I’m a pitcher facing a batter who I’ve never seen hit before – don’t know his/her tendencies at the plate, his/her hot/cold zones etc. I also don’t have scouting data. I’m not going to be able to monitor any results. The data doesn’t exist in my head. But, if I know some good pitching practices… I can at least throw a decent pitch based on a educated projection, right? Then when the batter is up and I have pitched to the batter – I can start to gather data and monitor results. Now I can adapt my pitching. Now your point starts to be more applicable. I can start to deviate from my original pitch if need be.

        You don’t always have an opportunity to monitor results, you don’t always have results to monitor before you start something. You can’t know what already works and what doesn’t if you’re trying something new. Knowing how algorithms work allows you to be prepared, it allows for flexibility, and it allows for smart and optimal adaptation.

  • http://twitter.com/alisammeredith Alisa Meredith

    Yes! If there were a simple formula that works for every page, anybody could do it! I find that photos posted at 2pm work best for me lately, but that changes all the time, so you always have to be watching.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rkischuk Rob Kischuk

    Much like reallifesarah, I feel like you’re mostly on target. There IS a nearly universal truth that Link posts are bad for reach, clicks, and engagement relative to text and photo posts. From this perspective, page managers absolutely need to worry about Edgerank.

    The best results absolutely come from compelling content, but the choice of how to most effectively present that content to fans should be informed (not exclusively) by Edgerank trends.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, Rob. I’ll give you the same response I gave Sarah…

      My counter: If you monitor your results, you already know what works and what doesn’t.

      Ultimately, EdgeRank is mostly one thing: What a user wants to see. And your results should reflect that.

      The mistake people are making is posting based on universal truths instead of finding what works for them and their audience. If you monitor your results, you’re ahead of the game. If you don’t and rely on universal truths, you’re always a step behind, waiting to hear the latest universal truth.

      Is it valuable to be mindful of universal “truths”? I’m not convinced it matters if you check your own stats closely enough. In fact, I feel it could have an adverse effect.

      Thanks for the thoughts! I know this is a controversial subject.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rkawano Rivka Kawano

        If you think about your fans rather than Facebook you will do well most of the time.

        • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

          Not only that, Rivka, but it’s a whole lot less frustrating! YOU are in control.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rkischuk Rob Kischuk

        I think the tension comes between universal, objective metrics and page-specific, subjective metrics. Do you have tools or a spreadsheet you use to objectively track what’s working?

        What we often see is “we tried this, and these 2 posts did best”, so people do that for the next month. It’s hard for the average page owner to separate all of the factors – time of day, day of week, post type, let alone the skewed data that comes from posts that were unusually clever.

        I think the ideal is page-specific, objective data, with a strategy that includes enough experimentation to detect and adapt to changes in EdgeRank and fan behavior (which, as you note, are correlated).

        • http://gplus.to/gplustips Ryan Crowe

          Yes. This. Chasing EdgeRank is fairly vague – what does “chasing” really mean? I think knowing the purpose, as you mentioned, of EdgeRank should absolutely be fundamental knowledge for a digital marketing professional – knowing the variables of EdgeRank… an absolute MUST… knowing the sub-variables… even better. Weight/Affinity/Decay are umbrella terms for a ton of different factors.

          I already feel like there is a tendency to shy away from understanding the ‘media’ of social media… know EdgeRank. Know how to use it. Marry that knowledge with your other knowledge, it’s not a panacea. And… know it well enough so that when you have to adapt to it – you can.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.s.willson Ryan Willson

    agreed and well said Jon! We all need this reminder. Share value!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mattos John Mattos

    I think its easy to lose sight of the fact that your success is driven by fan preference. People for get that!

  • http://twitter.com/MaryGreenIM Mary Green

    I understand saying engagement is more important than reach, but if you do not reach many people, how can you get engagement? Isn’t that similar to only focusing on who visits your website and does something, and not worrying about where traffic is coming from?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      If you get more engagement, Mary, you’ll get more reach. EdgeRank’s main purpose is to surface content that you’ve proven to enjoy. So if you engage with content in the past, you’ll see it in the future. Focus on engagement and you’ll reach more people.

    • claire gallagher

      EXACTLY, Mary. you can have fantastic content. but if you arent reaching anyone, because you arent presenting your posts in the most advantageous way, then what is the point?

      Example: if i post an article on my FB news page in Text only, it reaches 50% of my followers. The EXACT SAME POST posted with a link on it will only get a small fraction of that. so it is a good thing to know that so that i can throw in some text only posts occasionally to increase my overall reach. so knowing that about Edgerank is VERY important.

      Example: if i post an article without the preview it gets five times the reach than the same article posted five minutes later with preview. i know because ive tried it. knowing that about Edgerank is very important to my page as i post mainly news articles.

      So i try to keep the focus and quaity of my content constant and i pay attention to the types of posts my followers enjoy the most. but my page, that is mainly links, would be lost if i didnt discover (by myself) the above Edgerank preferences.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rkawano Rivka Kawano

    Yes, yes, yes! Sharing this! :-)

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  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Brilliant as always Jon. However I must say I have my doubts about some statements.

    You are right: each audience is different, each page is different, each country, gender, age, time zone, content type….may affect the reach in one way or another. However there is some common ground here: we are all humans, and as so we behave following some established patterns.

    I am in the middle of a long-term experiment where I am trying to establish and analyse these patterns in the Internet and Social Media. I am far from finishing (happy to share my findings once completed), but so far I can tell without a doubt that a large majority of people prefer images to text (and they prefer videos to images – but only if they are not too long)

    Once said this, I also agree that a good post update produces a better result than a bad image. And even within images, content also affects how users react. There are also some interesting findings, like: women pay attention to more complex images (e.g.: more elements in the picture, even if they are not the main element) whilst men prefer those where there is a main a clearly defined element. I wrote about this recently at my own website.

    Basically what I am trying to say here is: in the same conditions (same age group, same gender, same industry, same country, etc…. ) people tend to be more reactive to images than to post updates: simply basic human behaviour. I any case I am not contradicting your article, which I agree 100%: focusing only on one post type – without analysing your audience or other external factors – is a risky and many times wrong approach. And chasing the algorithm is a waste of time that could be better used to create good content.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, Antonio! Always love your feedback.

      I think we’re actually on the same page here. While I acknowledge that there certainly are trends and facts that back up certain post types being more effective overall, I don’t want to share this information because it will be misinterpreted. It encourages lazy marketing for those who take shortcuts.

      If you monitor your own results, they should reflect what the studies already say. And if they don’t, it’s a good thing you didn’t listen!

      • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

        Totally agree. Trying to give a simplistic explanation could mislead “lazy” companies who are only looking for a quick-fix. I like your approach, which is deeper and more detailed.

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  • Dan Strayer

    If I were to summarise this, it would seem to me that EdgeRank takes the New York Life approach – the company you keep. I’d like to thank you for you’re recommending quality production: too often forgotten, so much easier to do than we think. You’ve got my +1 for the day. Right on, Jon.

  • venkyiyer58

    I never chased algorithms simply because as a one-man show I just never did have the time. Gee, am I glad!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/steph.allard Stephane Allard

    Couldn’t agree more Jon. That’s why in our Facebook Analytics solution, we didn’t include “performance of posts by type”. We think they’re pretty useless. We’ve preferred to add “Topic analysis”. Lot more insightful.

  • http://johnhaydon.com/ John Haydon

    The funny thing is that Edgerank has always focused on pushing out quality posts to users, but it seems that creating quality content is either the last thing on the minds of marketers. There simply are no shortcuts to building a Facebook community.

    • http://www.MaximaMedia.co/ Collin C. Cottrell

      Amen John. You are right on target!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jbelonger Jeff Belonger

    Jon, I agree for the most part. But I still think you need to pay attention to how edgerank works and what tactics are best used. I get what you are saying, in just using your results.

    My counter is: But if you don’t pay attention to how edgerank works and rely just on your results, you might have been using the worst tactics regarding edgerank. Then how can one determine what works for them. My point, try all the different methods of posting and then use your results. Which means knowing how edgerank works. Your thoughts?

  • Kate Barlow

    Jon, I am completely with you on this! For years I’ve competed against companies selling ‘magic’ solutions to rankings (either on FB or Google) while my mantra has been quality content every time. Even if you get great ‘rankings’ by spinning the system, what is the point if real people don’t relate to your content? Quality content = quality relationships = quality customers!

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  • http://twitter.com/eernoult Emeric Ernoult

    Agreed, agreed and agreed… Tired of these people and tools that tell you that you should be posting pictures at 7PM on Thursday. Total non sense. You know what, according to many studies, we are more productive at work mid week between 2 and 4 pm. So maybe I should only work on Wednesday between 2 and 4? ;-)

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  • claire gallagher

    i run a mental health news page on FB. we post primarily news articles and videos. i have found that if i do a TEXT ONLY post, quoting an article for example, i get over 60% reach, sometimes over 100% reach.

    also if i post an article and delete the Preview (the bit on the bottom that has a description and a thumbnail photo), the post gets TWICE as much reach. that is significant.

    i have also noticed that the reach of Page to Page shares has plummeted to almost nil. another effort to sabotage networking between pages. so now i lift the URL of the article and tag the page i found it on so that my followers can visit it. by doing so, i the reach of the article quadruples and that is good for me and for the page i lifted the content from.

    If content isnt being seen, it isnt useful to anyone. and the way to get it seen is to increase reach. so i have to disagree with you on that. reach is important. as is quality content.

  • http://twitter.com/SeekingNothing Steve Fisher

    Jon, I’ve been reading weak social media marketing content all day.

    You, sir, are a breath of fresh air. Keep up the good work.

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  • Adam Collins

    Super Solid Post Jon!!! It always comes back to adding great relative & valuable content in the end. Sure there’s things that help engagement such as timing, variance, creativity, consistency etc… and basic marketing… such as using a call to action or going further and being the purple cow etc. Ultimately it’s the right message to the right market at the right time. Genuinely caring what your market needs and adding great value. Great post! Have the best night ever!

  • David

    Jon – have you seen this?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq42ZPqCOZ

    Thanks for your post too